Growing Your Favorite Herbs
Herbs: the very reason I ever started a countertop herb garden in the first place. I remember walking into a fancy grocery store, and outside the front entrance was a wall of herbs with beautiful little signs that informed you which sprig of heaven you were about to experience.
Many of them I recognized: Lavender. Cilantro. Basil. Dill. Parsley. But then I started seeing some more detailed little signs of herbs I hadn’t experienced before: Lemon thyme. Orange and chocolate mint varieties (um, what?). Pineapple sage. (Again, what?)
I plucked off little leaves or buds and rubbed them between my fingers to express the vibrancy of the scents, and I was entirely captivated. But it wasn’t just the scents that reeled me in. It was the sheer beauty that we have such amazing resources growing up from the ground, resources to make a breakfast hash fabulous with dill or lemon thyme, or an Italian dinner irresistible with oregano and basil and parsley. Resources that have also been used for centuries for food, health and emotional well being.
I was overwhelmed that I can easily plant, cultivate, and harvest these resources to benefit my family and their tummies and well being. Upon this realization, I simply exhaled and said, “Thank you, God, for the beauty and thoughtful detail you gave us in your creation. You really went all out.” What I would later find is that the process of cultivating the ground does a number on the process of cultivating health in one’s heart as well.
I decided having live herbs would be a goal to incorporate into the kitchen of my young marriage, and I’ve never turned back!
Now, half of my outdoor garden is full of vibrant herbs, some of which I literally grow just to smell. At almost every meal, I wander out to cut a few sprigs of herbs—even during the Pacific Northwest winter, I’ve still been using rosemary, lavender, sage, oregano and thyme. But before I go any further, please let me confess that I am no master gardener. Nope, not even close. But in my first true year of building out a garden, I found a few helpful tips and some favorite herbs I thought I’d share.
HERBS IN MY GARDEN AND WHAT I USE THEM FOR:
Cilantro: Anything Mexican: fajitas, guacamole, tacos or Mexican chili. And though I don’t try to make this much, I love cilantro with Thai food.
Basil: Caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, salt & pepper) and anything Italian‚ really—like Margarita pizza or Bolognese!
Dill: Making Tziki sauce for Greek food, baking salmon with lemon and dill or adding a little dill aioli to a breakfast sandwich.
Lavender: Rub some in your hands and inhale for an instant reminder to breathe deeply, calm your thoughts and be mindful of the moment. Lemon & lavender cupcakes are divine, or lavender lemonade (you can even add basil or thyme to the lemonade for an herbal boost)!
Rosemary: One of my go-tos for making soups, roasted potatoes or vegetables for any meal of the day. I also love tying a sprig onto the top of a gift or card for a relaxing scent and a thoughtful touch. (I’ve been known to deplete my herb plants for the use of gift giving…not ashamed)
Parsley: This is a great gut cleaner for juicing or to add to your smoothies with some chia seeds. You can use it as a garnish or in Italian food with oregano and basil.
Sage: Similar to rosemary, I use this herb a lot for soups, roasted potatoes veggies and anything in the vibes of chicken pot pie. (Though don’t be fooled, I’ve never made a pie in my life)
Lemon Thyme: I literally use this everywhere. Breakfast hash. Salmon. Infused cocktails or mocktails. A unique twist to a bruschetta. This is also one that I will just pick and rub in my fingers to smell when I’m in the garden.
Oregano: I use this mostly for Italian-based foods, but will also use it for soups or with combos of other herbs like Lemon Thyme. Oregano has really crazy health benefits, but we enjoy those benefits most directly through the essential oil form. Story time: This last winter my toddler was sick for over two weeks with a really sad cold. I was taking my Inner Defense capsules 3 times a day (a Young Living oil blend with lots of oregano) and remained unscathed for two weeks…until I ran out of the pills. I got sick a day after my last pill ran out!
Orange Mint: I will be very honest, this one is just for the scent! We tried to use it in a watermelon & feta salad recipe that called for regular mint, but it wasn’t very pleasant to consume. It almost tasted like we were eating an orange peel. So if you like eating orange peels, go for it. But the scent is heavenly!
Regular Mint: This can be enjoyed everywhere! Summer salads, infused iced water with strawberries or lemons, some Greek food, lemonade…so many things.
Tip 1: Plant What You Know You Will Eat
Even though I said I planted a few just for enjoying the scents, be specific and confident in the herbs you choose. If you are just starting with a few potted herbs indoors for cooking purposes, maybe start with basil, cilantro and rosemary. You will grow in your confidence as you actually care well for the few and put them to good use!
Tip 2: Don’t Overcrowd Your Herbs
One of my biggest mistakes planting in my first garden box was overcrowding. Most herbs grow very quickly (especially mint!) and will spread and take over if not trimmed and maintained. Half of my herbs couldn’t see the sunlight and died off while the others exploded and spread. If you are planting in a garden bed (which I highly recommend in order to keep away weeds and certain critters) pay attention to the spacing recommendations on the label of the herb.
Tip 3: Keep Your Herbs Alive
Sounds easy, but some herbs have specific hopes and dreams of their own, you know. Some want full sun, some hope for only partial sun. Some love water daily, and some get waterlogged and turn brown. Trim your herbs back as they grow (which they will if they are planted in a proper space outdoors)...there will almost always be enough to share, so tie up a few bundles and go share them with your neighbors! This was a great way my 18-month-old son and I got to know some of our new neighbors.
*For most every herb in my garden, I also enjoy using its essential oil‚ for cooking and for other health purposes. There is so much to enjoy here, so if you want any ideas or have any questions, email me!